I am long-time lurker of this forum, occasional poster, and an avid reader of all things AoM. In the past, I've asked for advice on work, love and shaving, and I've truly appreciated all the help you've given me. Now, there's something a little more serious: my father.
My father is approaching 73 years old. I am, at 22 years old, his only son and child. He lives alone in the countryside with our dog. My mother divorced him in 2008 and I thoroughly understand her decision to. Throughout his life, he suffered three heart attacks and two strokes; indeed, a stroke in 2009 left him with "conduction aphasia", a syndrome that has mildly affected his capacity for fluent speech.
My father last worked in that same year (he now lives off three pensions that have, up until recently, served him well enough). He led a very distinguished, decades-long career in the motor industry as a marketing director and eventually managing director; his success made my family wealthy, until his second heart attack botched a company buyout.
In the last two or three years in particular, my father's behaviour has become increasingly erratic and this has peaked in the last month. He was hospitalised three weeks ago (since discharged) for a heart infection, but several calls from his hysterical landlady indicate to me that this was probably caused or compounded by stress: he has, for some reason, withheld four months' rent. I have glimsped overdue bills when I've been at home, too, and his diet is no more nutritious than an average college student's. He makes little effort to interact with other people, and the friends he did have in the area have largely abandoned him because of his indifferent attitude to his health and situation. Likewise, he seems reluctant to forget his relationship with my mother (who has certainly moved on).
I understand now that my father will probably never work again. His speech disorder, despite it being mild, seriously impacted his confidence and capacity to think at a professional level. Before the stroke, he was a very witty, sharp man, but that area of his personality is mostly erased. For the last four years, he has spent his hours in front of the television, smoking his pipe, and occasionally walking the country roads.
Now, with his rent arrears, he faces eviction, and rightly so. While it does present the opportunity for him to move into a town centre and make friends with locals (his present house is very remote), getting this concept through to him is almost impossible. He refuses to show any signs of weakness, and one of the reasons my parents' marriage deteriorated was because he was pathologically dishonest and obtuse in regards to his health and finances. Whenever I confront him about any of this, I am stonewalled: "I'm 100%, don't you worry", or a similar tale about how he's been speaking to a friend about work, or how his pension-provider's letting him take out a lump sum.
Needless to say, his behaviour is continuing to cause emotional distress for both myself and his brother and sister, who, as far as I know, have supported him financially to some degree in recent months. We have essentially been reduced to covert nannies.
Have any other men here experienced their father acting in a similar manner, or indeed, a brother or friend? I am quite at odds as to how I am supposed to help him, or get him to change his thinking, his habits and his lifestyle.
Surely it's not all a generational thing.
All my best,
That is quite a lot of stress and worry to have to deal with. I don't have suggestions at this point, only sympathy. I hope things work out, and he gets to a happier, healthier place.
I look forward to the contributions of others.
Well, I don't think it's the case that he does anymore. I think after his more recent health problems and the bother of having shops so far away, moving into the town is partly his own idea. But getting him to execute that is problematic, especially with arrears.
But you're right about my age being a factor in advising him. I'm sure I wouldn't take my son's advice seriously if I were his age. Then again, I'd hope to be surprised. (After all, he's given me an education for a reason.)
Thank you for you reply!
I hate it that you're going through this, William--22 is awfully young to have to deal with something of this nature. As hard as it's going to be, you're going to have to realize that there is practically nothing you can do without your father's consent, particularly in regards to money.
Dave Ramsey, in his Financial Peace University classes, talks about the "powdered butt syndrome"--which is basically this: no body who once powdered your butt is ever going to take your advice. Stop trying to confront your father about how he spends his money--whether or not he gets behind on his bills or seems irresponsible is really none of your concern. I hope that doesn't sound harsh--I don't mean it to be--but it's just a statement of fact. His money and his bills are HIS business, even if you don't really approve of how he handles them. The same could be said about his diet and most of the other matters you have mentioned.
Now, having said that, you ARE his son, and to the extent that you can get away with it, you are entitled to express your concern, offer help and support, and to provide your father with information on what's available to him. But you have to make it seem to your dad that any changes are his idea. Present things to him as suggestions and sell him on the idea (if you can) of such things as moving to some place better, accepting assistance with things like medical/financial affairs ("so you don't have to mess with it"), etc.---but if you try to arm twist him into anything, he's going to bulk...and why shouldn't he?
He's fortunate to have a concerned son who cares about him--and that's your role right now---be concerned, offering caring advice. But let any final decisions be (or at least seem like) his own.
Well, you can't control people. And I'm not sure your father's wrong. Wrong to lie, to be sure. But right to insist on his independence. Even if it's not in his interest... I'd rather go out independent than be comfortably caged.
And yet he's also wrong to not pay his rent. It'll get him kicked out. Part of being free is being responsible. If he gets himself kicked out and thus becomes dependent on you to run his finances, this is a way of giving up his independence. Sure hope he decides not to.
he suffered three heart attacks and two strokes...In the last two or three years in particular, my father's behaviour has become increasingly erratic and this has peaked in the last month
I am quite at odds as to how I am supposed to help him, or get him to change his thinking, his habits and his lifestyle.
I am sorry that this is happening to you and your dad. I am concerned that you sound as if you expect him to be more reasonable and rational than he is after his stroke. You need to accept that the strokes have almost certainly compromised the functioning of his brain. Don't be upset or disappointed with him; it's not a character flaw so much as a health problem that has resulted in cognitive impairment.
At this point, he is not capable of being responsible for his own well-being anymore regardless of legal status. I had the same problems with my mother after she went schizophrenic, probably as the result of Parkinson's medications which she probably never should have been given, as it's now doubtful that she ever had it.
She couldn't get bills paid, signed up for services she didn't need, made a catastrophe of her finances, and otherwise created all sorts of havoc.
Ideally what you would want to do is have him declared legally incompetent, and take over his affairs. Easier said than done.
I suggest consulting with both a doctor and a lawyer.
Good luck to all of you.
I don't know how this works in Ireland. In the US, you'd have an array of options best explained to you by an attorney or social worker. On the least-drastic level, you can "keep an eye on the situation." You could also ask/offer to assist with finances and/or setting up automatic payments so at least the rent gets paid on time. On the most drastic level, you could force your father to let you or another family take over through a conservatorship, which would require proceedings in court.
Again, in the US, there are a variety of government and private organizations that could advise you, including one I volunteer for (am working toward a presentation to members on conversatorships). But I don't know the equivalents in Ireland. In the US, lots of clergy are very familiar with available processes and resources.